A family member, age 76, has muscular dystrophy. It is the optic, esophageal type. He cannot eat any solids, so he drinks a "Boost" like cocktail twice a day. He thins it with water, but continues to have difficulty swallowing. Any thoughts on ways to thin the mucous without all kinds of side effects?
I have read your question carefully, but remain uncertain about the relationship between your family member’s difficulty swallowing and the mucous you would like to have thinned. It is my impression that his “difficulty swallowing” may result in some of the thinned “Boost” may be aspirated (that is, goes into his wind-pipe, the trachea) resulting in the production of mucous that is thick and thus difficult for him to cough-up. If the thick mucous is produced, only after his attempts to swallow the “boost”, then it is likely that the cause is a poorly functioning esophagus, secondary to muscular dystrophy. In that case, sooner or later he may develop pneumonia secondary to the “boost” that enters his lungs or secondary to thick mucous that he is unable to clear.
The first step might be for his doctors to determine if this is what is happening. This might require a special X-ray, called a “swallowing study”, or other tests performed by a GI specialist, a specialist in disorders of intestinal function, including disorders of the esophagus. If there is a cause and effect connection between the substance he drinks for nourishment and the production of thick, hard to clear, mucous, it may be necessary for him to have a feeding tube placed in the esophagus or to have his nutrition by-pass the esophagus and flow directly into a tube that enters the stomach, from the outside.
If what I have suggested is not the case, then other means will have to be sought to make it easier for him to raise the mucous. Various substances are used to try to thin mucous. none especially effective, but may be worth a try, but only if recommended by his doctor, as they are not without side effects. These are Ambroxil, carbocysteine, iodinated glycerol and guaifenesin.
Finding and treating the cause of the thick mucous is greatly preferable to trying any mucous thinning drugs.
I wish there were better solutions to your family member’s problem, but I just don’t know of any.
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